9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bizarre 911 Calls - They Happen Everywhere

Excerpts taken from PoliceOne.com News and YouTube
Article in Tampa Tribune written by Keith Morelli, 2/19/14


If they didn't waste valuable resources, take the time of public servants and distract those hired to protect and serve the rest of us, some of the non-emergency calls made to 911 dispatchers in Tampa would be downright funny.

Tampa police say at least half of the 911 calls the department receives have nothing to do with life and death emergencies.

Legitimate calls include reports of serious events like car wrecks, houses on fire or crimes in progress.  What doesn't constitute an emergency are questions about inheritance taxes, daylight savings time and a complaint that your roommate just grabbed a beer out of your hand.

Dispatchers once got a call from a guy at the airport who said his electronic entry key wouldn't work on his car.  He wanted to know what he should do.

On the department's Facebook page, police have begun posting such 911 calls, though the names have been deleted to protect the innocent and blissfully ignorant.  The calls can bring up a chuckle, but there is a serious undercurrent here.


Among the more flagrant misuses of the 911 emergency line was a clearly inebriated woman who called around 3 a.m. in March 2009, complaining initially of a drug deal, then a domestic disturbance.  Then the real reason emerged.

The conversation spanned three different calls, all within a half-hour period.  Here's the edited version:

"What's going on?" the dispatcher asks.

"There was an argument," the woman slurs.  "I don't want to do to jail and he doesn't want to go to jail."

"You are just arguing?"


"What are you arguing about?" the very patient dispatcher asks.


"Beer?  Are there any weapons there?"

"No.  He just took my beer out of my hand."

The woman asks for help.

"Please," she says, "he took my beer and he bought my beer for me."

The woman made two calls after that, each time getting more agitated, to the point where she was screaming for someone to come arrest her.

"Come...lock me up.  I'll go no problem."

Some calls aren't as dramatic, but still of the non-emergency type.

An example of a call made on the first Saturday in November in an abridged version:

"Tampa 911, what is your emergency," the dispatcher asks.

"There's no emergency," the caller says.  "I'd like to ask you a question.  Do you turn the clock an hour ahead or back?"

"It's an hour back."

"Thank you."

All hilarity aside, police say such calls take up scarce resources, and that's why the deparment is drawing attention to the issue.

"It's easy to laugh," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis, "But it is a serious matter and if people are driving through or live in the city, we're asking them to please program the non-emergency phone number into their phones.  The number is (813) 231-6130."

While a lot of calls are non-emergency, she said, they still may be appropriate for 911.

"Like kittens in the sewer technically is not an emergency," she said, though some would disagree.  Reporting a crime may not be an emergency either, like break-ins of cars or homes, or vandalism of property, but they are considered appropriate for the emergency line.

If it isn't a pressing matter, people should call the non-emergency line, she said.

"We don't want to discourage people from calling 911," she said.  "If you have an emergency or something that requires police assistance, call 911.  If you're in doubt, call 911.  We don't want to discourage that."

"You don't need to call 911 to ask when to set clocks back or about an inheritance tax or if you were served cold food at a restaurant.  Not only are they not emergencies, they are not police matters."

When people who live in the city call 911 on their house phones, the calls go first to Tampa police dispatchers.  Ditto for cell phone users calling from within the city limits.  Davis said dispatchers say half of their calls, at least, are non-emergencies.

"Some say 65 percent, 70 percent," she said.

Occasionally people are charged with misusing the 911 system, but they usually are flagrantly calling over and over for no good reason.  The woman who called about her roommate snatching the beer out of her hand called three times, and at the end, in a profanity-laced scream, ordered police to come arrest her.  Police obliged, Davis said.

"She was not charged the first time, she was not charged the second time," Davis said.  "She was charged the third time she called."

"It was a clear misuse of 911.  If someone calls 911 innocently and they should be calling the non-emergency number, they will not be charged."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

911 Call Centers Consider Impact of FCC Texting Proposal

Taken from www.emergencymgmt.com, February 12, 2014
Written by Brian Heaton

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a rule last month that requires wireless carriers to support text-to-911 functionality by the end of 2014.  Experts support the idea, but are concerned about the impact it may have on the public, particularly in areas where 911 call centers don't have next-generation technology online to accept emergency texts.

Some public safety access points (PSAPs) are upgrading their equipment or reaching partnerships with other area call centers that have next-gen 911 to cover their jurisdictions.  But there are others that haven't, which increases the risk of people texting for help and not receiving an answer.

Terry Hall, chief of emergency communications for the York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Regional 911 Call Center in Virginia, said more than 30,000 text-to-911 messages went "in the bit bucket" during 2013 -- going completely unanswered.  And with an increasing percentage of 911 calls coming from mobile devices, that number may rise in the future.

Hall and Al Fjerstad, PSAP manager with the Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Office in Milaca, Minn., believe one of the solutions is a "bounce-back" message.

When a person sends a text to 911 and service isn't availabe, the person would receive a message back letting them know the system isn't text-ready and to call 911.  The major wireless carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- voluntarily agreed to provide text-to-911 and the bounce-back message feature by May 15 this year.  The capability is currently deployed sporadically in the U.S., including dozens of cities and a handful of entire states, including Maine and Vermont.

But while the big carriers make up a good chunk of the text messaging provider market, all carriers need to agree to the bounce-back feature for the idea to work.  Even if the service isn't available, a person needs to know they've been heard.

"We all know with text messaging..even though you get that little message that says 'delivered,' that person may never get it," Fjerstad said.  "So therein lies the whole thing.  And I think that's one of my primary concerns and one of the questions that I keep asking that hasn't been answered yet."

The York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Regional 911 Call Center was one of the first in the U.S. to accept text messages to 911.  The service went live about 10 months ago.  Hall said that while 75 percent of the calls to the center come from a cell phone, the texting capability is thought of as a secondary way to contact 911.  He called it a tool to augment voice calls to 911 for those who can't speak or are in danger if they are heard.

Fjerstad felt it was too early for texting to become a primary way to contact 911 and believes there are a variety of operational questions that need to be addressed.  He explained that a person's voice can provide details words can't.  Peoples' texts can also categorize events differently than law enforcement, adding to confusion.

For example, someone texting that a robbery just occurred may actually be a simple theft, or a domestic dispute could be a verbal confrontation rather than a physical act.

"We can keep a person on the line in a domestic situation or something like that and hear things in the background -- with text messaging you don't get that," Fjerstad said.  "Much is lost in the written word.  You don't have voice inflection, background noise or any of that."

While the FCC's proposal presents challenges, the bottom line for Hall and Fjerstad was that the changes in store for PSAPs will ultimately lead to better-informed responders and a safer public.

"Text-to-911 is an evolutionary process," Hall said.  "It's the beginning of being able to send digital data to the 911 center in the future.  It'll be pictures, graphics and video and so-on."

HG commented:  This is a great idea, but wonder if the texting app that some people have will cause issues.  There is also the sporadic texting that some phones do.  I have sent a text and the person did not receive it until almost 12 hours later.  I understand the need for the "bounce-back" and it does pertain to what I am talking about.  The issue I can see happening is the "bounce-back" message being delayed as some texts are.  All-in-all this is a great idea and hope that it will work as intended.

FB commented:  Text messaging is a service the wireless providers allow us to use for a fee.  It is actually a "keep alive" or network diagnostic tool that the wireless providers used to check the status of cell sites.  When they found they could market it and enhance the bottom line we have text messaging.  If it is a diagnostic tool and then the opportunity for delay and failures remains a gap.  The bounce back message is fine if there is no connectivity but if you are injured and the message is not received for an hour much less the three to four we routinely see especially with secondary providers could present grave consequences.  This past weekend (2/15/14) I picked up an item for my wife and sent her a picture message that I had the item in hand and was on my way home.  I drove 45 minutes arrived home gave her the item and then she received the text that I was on my way.  Had this been a life or death message I would have died due to the lack of oxygen from a heart attack or bled out from an accidental injury.  Text messaging is being relied on to pass critical information.  911 operators while receiving information from the caller are also gathering and assimulating other information that is passed on to responders, i.e. gunshots, explosions, threats, caller's tone and demeanor all of which play in the response.

LW commented:  Good concept.  People are going to try this whether or not the systems support it.  I agree with all that was said about the advantages of a voice call.  In a duress situation text may be the safest for the victim.  Hope to see more on this in the future editions.

Glen Mills commented:  Has anyone considered the issue of "Swatting" where phone numbers are spoofed in order to generate an emergency response to an address where no emergency exists.  This will be even easier to do and harder to detect via text.  What about Denial of Service (DOS) attacks?  These attacks that flood phone or data systems can occur on 911 voice lines but again, it is something easy to do with computer technology via text.  The text messages could report a wide array of emergencies at a wide array of locations and easily get to the point where valid 911 calls and texts can't be answered for a very long time period.  All of these problems need to be addressed and planned for before we deploy this technology.

Unknown commented:  The problem of unreceived texts is one I would particularly worry about.  While texts are often reliable, about 10% of all texts never reach their destinations.  If I were designing such a system, I'd include an auto-reply to the sender to indicate the text has been received.  If you don't get it, either it wasn't received or the auto-reply didn't get back to you.  Worse comes to worst, the sender re-sends the original text.  Texts have the advantage of being silent.  If I'm hiding from an active shooter, a home invasion, or a rampaging spouse, I don't want to have to speak aloud to call for help.  While texts have severe limitations, they also have a better chance of getting through in a crisis when phone lines are overloaded, which is another advantage.  I'm not sure what FB's objection is; the more ways people have to call for help, the better off we all are.  Yes, it is imperfect, and there will be failures, but let's not dismiss the idea because it's not perfect.  "The perfect is the enemy of the good," as the saying goes.  Glen's objection is well-founded, and I'd worry about that too.  Not sure what the best solution would be; probably responders would have to treat every message as genuine, while texting back and asking for confirmation.

Let's Do Something Nice For This Little Boy!!!!

I would like you to meet Tyler Seddon.  He is six years old, and he has been diagnosed with leukemia for the second time!!!  He will be celebrating his seventh birthday on March 6th, and the only thing he wants is to receive cards from his favorite heroes: police officers and fire fighters!

"He goes crazy over firefighters and police," said Tyler's mother, Rachel.  "We want this to be a special birthday, because you never know what could be next."

Tyler is taking chemotherapy while his doctors search for a bone marrow donor.  Facebook and GoFundMe accounts have been set up to keep anyone interested updated on Tyler's progress and to help with donations.

There will be a "be the match drive" and a blood drive at the Pascoag Fire Department on February 25th from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Birthday cards for Tyler can be sent to 96 South Main Street, Pascoag, R.I. 02859.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Worst Case Scenario: Trapped! What to Tell a Caller Locked in the Trunk of a Car

Taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine, February 2014 (Part 1 of a 7 Part Series)
Written by Angie Stiefermann, employed with the Jefferson City Police Department for 21 years as a CTO and for the past eight years as a telecommunications supervisor and instructor as well.  As a member of  a department that encourages continuing education, Stiefermann feels a responsibility to do her part in educating others through affordable or free training with the APCO training partnership.  She is married to a police sergean and has two daughters.

As a 9-1-1 calltaker, there are days when you find yourself saying, "Every day is something new," while other days leave you feeling, "I've heard it all."  There are definitely days that bring nothing new to the table, but occasionally even a seasoned calltaker is taken aback by a situation they've never experienced before or a routine call that takes an unexpected turn.

Call to mind some unique situations that you may have never considered, or perhaps you have considered but dread the day that you might be faced with handling them.  In this series, I'm going to try to simplify several unique emergencies to aid you in becoming more proficient, and perhaps less intimidated, when handling those emergencies as a 9-1-1 calltaker.  In upcoming issues, I'll cover handling callers who are operating a vehicle with a stuck accelerator or failing brakes, or who are trapped in a submerged vehicle.  I'll also examine what to ask of a passenger in a downed or troubled aircraft, a victim of a home invasion in progress, or a caller who is trapped in a house fire.  Here, I'm going to focus briefly on handling a caller who has been locked in the trunk of a car.

Don't Panic
To start, encourage the caller not to panic by telling them you will help them.  Easier said than done, but, as with all anxious callers, they'll be able to problem solve much more effectively if they remain calm.  Trunks are not airtight, and although it may get stuffy, hot or cold, and the caller could hyperventilate, they aren't likely to suffocate.

Try to obtain as much information from the caller as possible.  Ascertain their location, direction of travel, where they last remember being and a time frame.  If their location is unknown and the vehicle is moving, ask them if the road seems to be gravel or paved, how fast they are going, and what other sounds they hear or sensations they experience that could better describe their location.  There could be information that doesn't necessarily assist in your efforts, but when passed on to responders it may trigger some personal knowledge and assist in finding the caller.

Since they've called 9-1-1. do your best to get a location based on cell tower triangulation, or consider having the cellphone provider ping the phone.  Even if the caller offers their location, it's recommended you verify with a rebid of the automatic location identification (ALI) information if possible.

Get a vehicle description and find out the circumstances that led to their current situation, as you would with any emergency call.  Recommendations hereafter should be based on your knowledge of how this happened whether accidental or in connection with a crime.  With safety considered first, gather as much information as possible until you have a clear understanding of the situation.

Escape Attempt
With a clear understanding of the situation that is taking place, next consider helping the caller extricate themselves from the vehicle.  Make sure that the caller feels they can do so safely, without drawing attention from a perpetrator, before encouraging an attempt.

Have them call out for help, particularly if their location is unknown.  Then, direct them to look for an emergency release handle.  Every car manufactured since 2002 is required to have some sort of internal trunk release hatch.  The most common type is a T-shaped, glow-in-the-dark emergency release.  The release can either be found hanging from the top of the trunk lid or inside the baggage compartment near the taillights.  If they pull the release, the trunk should pop open.

If they are unable to locate the emergency release, have the caller attempt to find a seat release in the trunk.  Many cars have fold-down rear seats, so encourage the caller to find a trunk mounted release, or they can just start kicking against them to try to force them down.  Many cars have a remote release lever or button, often located near the driver's seat, that is attached to the release mechanism in the trunk by a long cable.  The caller should feel around for the cable; it may be under the carpet.  The cable may be very difficult to pull, but could work and provide an escape route.

The caller could also feel around for some sort of tool to attempt to force the latch.  Some cars even come with a factory toolkit mounted in the trunk.

Knocking out the taillight will provide additional ventilation and possibly allow them to poke their hand or another object through the hole that can be seen by passersby.  If nothing else, they can pull the brake wires because, without brake lights there's a greater chance the car could be pulled over.  Once you, as the operator, know they've disabled a taillight or the brake lights, officers will have more descriptive information to assist them in locating the vehicle.

Out of the Car
There is a chance that the caller might be successful in escaping or a perpetrator might release them from the trunk.  If time allows, discuss with the caller what they should do if the latter occurs.  Recommend they lay the phone down or somehow keep the phone with them with the connection open so you may continue to monitor the conversation and re-bid or ping their location of necessary.

It is imperative that the caller do all that they can to help responders locate them.  In addition to their phone, leaving a piece of personal property or hair behind may aid investigators if they are removed from the vehicle.

This type of situation is never easy to handle, but we must be prepared to address situations of this kind in order to provide callers with the best chance of survival.  By reviewing these strategies, we have a better chance of providing help and guidance if we answer a call for one of these worst case scenarios.

Quick Guide to use When a Caller is Locked in a Trunk:
1. Location
  a. Where were they last?
  b.  Direction they are traveling
  c.  Sights  & sounds
  d. Re-bid or ping cellphone

2. Vehicle description

3. Find out the circumstances

4. Get them out
  a. Emergency release
  b. Fold down rear seats
  c. Trunk cable
  d. Kick out taillights & alert motorists
  e. Force the latch

5. Keep cell line open

6. Leave evidence behind

Dispatchers: Unsung Heroes and a "Lifeline" for LEOs

Taken from PoliceOne.com News 02/07/14
Written by Karen L. Bune. Ms. Bune serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches victimology.  Ms. Bune is a consultant for the Training and Technical Assistance Center for the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.  She is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on victim issues.  Ms. Bune is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and Domestic Violence, and she is a Fellow of The Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and the National Center for Crisis Management.  Ms. Bune serves on an Institutional Review Board of the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C.  She is a 2009 inductee in the Wakefield High School (Arlington, Va.) Hall of Fame.  She received the "Chief's Award 2009" from the Prince George's County Maryland Police Chief.  She received a 2011 Recognition of Service Certificate from Prince George's County Executive Rushem Baker. She received a 2011 Official Citation from The Maryland General Assembly congratulating her for extraordinary public service on behalf of domestic violence victims in Prince George's County and the cause of justice throughout Maryland.  She received the 2011 American University Alumni Recognition Award.  Ms. Brune appears in the 2014 editions of Marquis' "Who's Who in the World, and Marquis' Who's Who of American Women."

Those who work in the public safety and law enforcement realm are committed, dedicated and usually passionate about what they do.  They work in a reality-based environment comprised of situations and event that most in the civilian world have never been exposed to.

There is a special connection between police dispatchers and police officers.  Strong bonds evolve from partnerships and the allegiance that develops as a result of the interconnected working relationships.

The radio is a cop's steadfast companion.  It is a vital connection to the dispatcher who plays a crucial role in keeping the officers on the street safe.  Dispatchers can provide the necessary information to all units and to those responding to the scene of a specific call and incident.

Dispatcher's Ear
The dispatcher's job is highly stressful.  Dispatchers have to possess keen listening skills and be excellent communicators.  They must have a "dispatcher's ear"--listening to what is going on in the background.  Moreover, dispatchers must be able to do several things at once.  Due to the stressful nature of the job, dispatchers must possess effective coping skills to be able to handle the pressure.

Dispatchers have a close link to police officers and often they feel responsible for them.  Padty Mayhew-Davis has served as a dispatcher for 15 years and is a Communications Training Officer for the Alexandria (Va.) Police Department.  She always wanted to be a cop but due to a knee injury was unable to pursue that career path.  She became a dispatcher instead.

"This is one way I can still help people," Mayhew said.  She recognizes the importance of maintaining her emotional equilibrium while working.

"You can't let your emotions affect or cloud what you're doing in your job because it could impede the outcome to citizens or officers," Mayhew said.

Mayhew is known to be very concerned about all the officers she works with.  If an officer is injured on duty during her shift, she remains on high alert.  "I deal with the situation until it is over," she said.  After the incident is over, Mayhew insists she must talk to the officers involved.  "I have to know for myself they are OK.  I get teased for being over-protective," she said.

Mayhew has frequently been out on the street.  "I used to do a lot of ridealongs, and I loved it.  You get to see what they (the officers) are doing," she said.

Keeping Officers Safe
Jill Price, currently a Communications Facility Coordinator for the Department of Public Works in Milwaukee and a former Telecommunications Specialist and Dispatcher for the Milwaukee Police Department, agrees with Mayhew.  Her motivation was fueled by knowing that her actions assisted in keeping officers safe, and she liked helping them.  "I was able to provide the resources.  I was a lifeline for the officers on the streets," she said.

"Some officers don't realize how important they are to dispatchers.  It is a big deal to us," said Celeste Anne Smelser Baldino, a supervisor in Public Safety Communications for the UVA-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center in Charlottesville, VA.  She serves as a working supervisor and rotates through all  the posts within the center.

Stacy Starkloff, a police dispatcher for the Baltimore, MD 911 Center, recalled a time when an officer did not answer the radio, and his car was abandoned.  No one knew where he was, and the helicopter was dispatched to search for him.  "It was really scary for awhile - not knowing where he was at,"Starkloff said.

It was subsequently discovered that he experienced a medical emergency and was in the back of an ambulance being treated.

Starkloff acknowledged that dispatchers hear a lot of things that would be difficult for most to hear.

"You have to have a backbone," she said.

Michael Slater, a State Police Dispatcher II and Supervisor of the Dispatch Center for the Massachusetts State Police, has been a dispatcher for 30 years.  Well versed in his specialty, he is keenly attuned to the challenges law enforcement officers face daily.  When he was a line dispatcher from 1986-1999, he particularly enjoyed the interaction with the troopers on the road.

On the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, Slater was getting ready to leave for the day at the end of his shift.  When the incident broke, he rapidly engaged.  There was a call-out for explosive and bomb detection duties by K-9, the Feds came in from Rhode Island, and the Boston Police, the State Police and the FBI set up a joint command post at Logan Airport where dispatchers were also needed.  All these efforts had to be coordinated through his communications center.

"I had dispatchers everywhere.  The whole week seemed like one long day," Slater said.

Lasting Impact
Heather Hanson - a Communications Technician I for the Tampa Police Department - has worked there since 2009.  She has also served as a trainer at the dispatch academy.  In 2010 when two Tampa police officers were killed in the line of duty, she worked at the command post, obtaining tips from callers.

"It made me feel good to do something connected to it - to feel we were helping.  It was crucial, I think," Hanson said.  She explained it was the first time that she had a genuine understanding of the thin blue line.

"It just blew my mind.  Something changed in me,"Hanson said.  The lasting impact on her was so profound that she is now making a career transition.  She has converted from a full-time dispatcher to part-time to allow her the opportunity to go through the police academy to become a Tampa police officer.

Many dispatchers associate with colleagues in the field during their off time and, consequently develop solid friendships with police officers.  The camaraderie solidifies both the professional as well as the personal relationships they share.  Dispatchers recognize their crucial role in serving as the lifeline for officer safety specifically, as well as public safety generally.  In their joint endeavors, dispatchers and law enforcement officers serve as unsung heroes in the public safety arena.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Police, Fire, EMS: Are We Really Team Players?

Taken from Law Officer.com, October 21, 2013
Written by Scott Barker, he has 40 years in the first responder community, with service in the U.S. Army Military Police, in local police/sheriff's departments, as a volunteer firefighter, EMS provider and a 24-year career with the FBI.  More than 20 years of his FBI service involved tactical operations and training with FBI HRT and SWAT.  Contact him via email at devlyonassociates@gmail.com.

The simulated explosion is announced on the common radio frequency, and the dispatcher flawlessly assigns the responding law enforcement patrol units, multiple fire units and countless EMS providers.  A command post is immediately established, and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is initiated.  Law enforcement merges seamlessly with fire units on the established perimeter as the EMS units are directed to the triage area, loaded and directed out by the most expeditious route.  The exercise is concluded, and the chiefs or directors of the first responder groups of police, fire and EMS take the microphone to announce how well everyone worked together and that this type of cooperation occurs daily.  But does it?

In reality, as the exercise is concluded, the different units who have been involved likely travel back to their stations and continue their secluded training and operations as they have in the past.

Cooperation Across Disciplines

We all realize the importance of a cooperative effort, but we seem to look at it only in terms of our particular profession.  It's important for us to look to others in our discipline for better ways of doing our jobs, but we consistently forget to reach across the barrier to our other brothers and sisters in the police, fire and EMS communities.  When was the last time you saw someone outside your particular discipline in one of your department's training classes?

I've been involved in the first responder field of all three disciplines for 40 years and could probably count on one hand the times I've seen a police officer in our fire training or, likewise, firefighters or EMTs in one of our police agency classes.

Healthy competition isn't a bad thing, and we have all heard the bantering between the services.  "God made police officers so firefighters could have heroes," or, "If you want to be liked, become a fireman."  I was taking firefighter certification testing and, knowing I was also in law enforcement, the instructor looked at me and said, "You will have two chances to pass this test, and if you fail, remember: There is no shame in being a police officer."  I won't even begin to mention the grief that police and fire give to their EMS brothers and sisters.

Almost all of our first responder dispatches involve at least two of these disciplines, and most of the time, all three.  Common dispatches include vehicle accidents, domestics, assaults, hazmat, clandestine labs, bomb threats, structure fires, search/rescue and tactical police operations.  I mention tactical operations last because this is an area in which common training has been the most effective.  The recent progression of Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) has set the example for the cooperative first responder effort.  I spoke with an EMS director at a recent conference who said that assigning a small group of paramedics to support law enforcement SWAT operations has been the best thing for cooperation between EMS and the police department that he's seen in his career.  He said that this benefit extended past the joint operations to daily activities in which EMS providers and officers are now sharing information and working better together on regular calls.

I recently attended a Technology Institute course conducted by the National Institute of Justice where, during discussions, Louisiana State Police Major Mike Barnum made a great case for establishing relationships between disciplines.  He said, "The time of a crisis is not the time to start making acquaintances.  Relationships should be made and established prior to any major incident."  He attributed that jewel of wisdom to a mentor, but what was true 30 years ago remains true today.

One View

The public sees all of us as a group and, unfortunately, acts of violence are directed at firefighters and EMTs in addition to police officers.  Whether the threat is perceived or real, recent incidents of criminals targeting first responders require a much more coordinated response among fire, police and EMS, which can be achieved only by multi-discipline cooperation.

What can we do to bridge this gap?  The chief or director of a particular police, fire or EMS organization sets the tone of that group.  If you hold this position, you should look for ways to incorporate members of other disciplines in your daily training, briefings or operations.  You'll hear officers complaining about confidentiality, a lack of training credit or simply saying, "We don't work with them," but it's absolutely essential that you breach the barrier that often exists between first responder groups.

Regular contact across agency lines will significantly improve performance on daily bread-and-butter runs and significantly improve the service you provide your community.  Don't wait for someone else to make the first move, take the initiative, and engage now.  A time of crisis is no time for an introduction.

Bulletin Board - Medics Enter "Warm Zones"

Taken from Emergency Management Magazine, January/February 2014

After the Columbine massacre, law enforcement changed its strategy to a more aggressive one where the first officers on the scene of a shooting immediately move to confront the shooter, instead of waiting, as was the approach previously.  At Columbine High School, police waited a half-hour for SWAT to arrive before entering the school.

And now, medical personnel are following suit and not waiting for the scene to be cleared before entering.  During a shooting at a Sparks, Nev., middle school, a paramedic donned a bulletproof vest and a helmet and entered the fray seven minutes into the chaos and before the shooting had ended to look for victims.  He found two and got them to ambulances.

That approach, one that experts think will save lives by getting wounded patients out of the line of fire quicker, will occur more often per new FEMA guidelines released in September.  According to a New York Times report, medical experts studied the Boston Marathon bombing and several mass shootings and found that sending first responders into "warm zones" to help bleeding victims will cut down on deaths.

First responders are to be accompanied by police and wear body armor.  Although the events themselves are usually over in minutes, it can take an hour or more to get victims stabilized by medical personnel.  The report said the U.S. military has saved thousands of lives in recent conflicts by responding quickly in combat, and that many lives were saved after the Boston Marathon bombings because of the immediate medical attention given to victims.

Another recent report acknowledged that Newtown, Conn., police arrived on the scene of the school massacre less than three minutes after the 911 call and entered the school six minutes later.  By that time, shooter Adam Lanza had done his damage and killed himself as well.  Tragically 20 kids and six others died, but it's possible that the police's quick response pushed Lanza to end it all and thus saved others.

That's why it's considered imperative that law enforcement officers engage the shooter as quickly as possible.  And that's why at least one school is deploying a gunshot detection system on campus.  The technology detects the gunshots, someone off campus presses a button, and police in the area are notified with information on the type of gun used, where in the school the shots came from and floor plans of the school.  In effect, police know almost instantly the exact location of the shots fired.  It's intriguing and could save lives, but it's expensive.

The good news is that school shootings are still not common.  The sad news is that they are becoming common enough for schools to consider spending precious dollars on something like this.

Bulletin Board - Traffic Signal Tech Improves Response Time

Taken from Emergency Management Magazine, November/December 2013

Traffic congestion could soon be a distant memory for fire and rescue personnel in Palm Beach County, Fla.  An intelligent traffic signal system is being installed that will adjust traffic light cycles to favor the routes being driven by first responders.

Called Emergency.now, the technology connects Palm Beach County Fire Rescue's computer-aided dispatch system with the county's traffic control system.  When an emergency call is placed, a route is generated and transmitted to each responding vehicle.  The software then adjusts the traffic lights along the route to stay green for longer stretches of time.  The major difference between Emergency.now and other emergency traffic signal systems is that it doesn't pre-empt traffic flow by setting up blinking yellow lights or completely stop one direction of traffic.  The software adjusts the existing traffic cycle to meet an emergency responder's needs and goes back to its normal timing quickly thereafter.

Bulletin Board - Twitter Alert System

Taken from Emergency Management Magazine, November/December 2013

Twitter is rolling out a new feature that will allow users to get emergency information directly from vetted, credible organizations.  The system, called Twitter Alerts, will deliver tweets marked as an alert by approved organizations through the traditional timeline feed and via SMS to a user's cellphone.  In addition, users who have the Twitter app for iPhone or Android will receive a push notification with the alert information.

The new system was announced on Sept. 25, and mimics a similar feature that helps Japanese users find emergency Twitter accounts during times of crisis.

The alerts feature is to be used for "warnings for imminent dangers, preventive instructions, evacuation directions, urgent safety alerts, information on access to essential resources, information on critical transit and utility outages, and crowd and misinformation  management."  Twitter Alerts will be indicated by an orange bell, and approved accounts show the bell alongside the text: "In times of crisis, this account helps share critical information with Twitter Alerts. Be prepared."